How do you see our Parish?
Is it a ‘service provider’ for baptisms, weddings, funerals and the like?....Or
do you experience it as a community where you belong, which encourages and
helps you to give your own unique service to humanity and God? In the Joy
of the Gospel, Pope Francis says:[A parish is] an environment for hearing God’s word, for growth
in the Christian life, for dialogue, proclamation, charitable outreach, worship
and celebration. In all its activities the parish encourages and trains
its members to be evangelisers. It is a community of communities, a sanctuary
where the thirsty come to drink in the middle of their journey, and a centre
of constant missionary outreach. (EG 28).
actual parish live up to this inspiring portrait? The Pope admits there is
still much to be done before that can happen. We well know that our own parish
falls short of these ideals. Nevertheless, when our ‘community of communities’
is at its best, we try to create an ‘environment’ where young and old alike
continue to be nourished and to grow as Christians. In such an environment
we receive ‘the love which restores meaning to our lives’; having received
it, ‘how can we fail to share that love with others?’ (EG 8).
efforts to become our best selves came into focus six years ago during our
first Parish Assembly. We tried to
find out what were the most important
evening will be held in the Parish Hall on Tuesday, 10th June at 8pm. The session will finish by 9.15pm. All are welcome
things to be done, and planned how to do them.
For me and for many others that experience was wonderful. God’s love came
to us through our being together and each of us could see that he or she also
had something unique to offer. It seems to me that the important tasks we
undertook, the ’priorities’, are in complete harmony with Pope Francis’ picture
of an ideal parish.
What new things now need to be done? Our ‘community
of communities’ is called to find out. Do you feel that you belong? Whatever
your circumstances you are warmly welcome to make your own special contribution
to our next Parish Assembly. The best way to do this is to come along on
Saturday, 14th June, 9.30am-4pm.
If you really can’t come, make your views known to someone who is going
– and pray for us.
Extract from a talk
to be given at all masses on 8th June
aHow can we be Missionary Disciples? This is the question asked of us by
Pope Francis, Christ’s Vicar on earth. Peter, Christ’s first Vicar said "you
are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God's own
possession; that you may proclaim the Excellencies of Him who has called
you out of darkness, into His marvellous light".
When the Hebrew Old Testament Scriptures were translated into Greek about
250 B.C. the Greek word "ekklesia" was used 40 or 50 times. It means "assembly"
and can be used for either a religious assembly or an assembly for another
In the vast majority of its New Testament occurrences, the word "ekklesia"
is translated as "church" and does refer to a religious gathering. The "church
of Christ" is an assembly of people gathered out of darkness, into the light
of Jesus. The word "church" being a collective noun, that is a collection
of smaller units.
Other examples of collective nouns include herd, gathering of cattle, or
flock, gathering of birds. The "church" is a gathering of baptised people.
One disciple is not the church any more than one cow is a herd or one bird
is a flock.
Pope Francis has said "Our Christian identity is belonging to a people:
the Church. Without this, we are not Christians. We entered the Church through
baptism: there we are Christians".
So we have been chosen by God and we have become part of his body, a body
made up of many parts. St Teresa of Avila said “Christ has no body now on
earth but yours, no hands but yours, no feet but yours; yours are the eyes
through which Christ's compassion is to look out to the earth. Yours are
the feet by which He is to go about doing good, and yours are the hands by
which He is to bless us now”.
Missionary comes from the Latin word ‘missio’ and translates as ‘sending’;
the catechism of the Catholic Church says ‘Mission is the essence of the
Church, and Jesus’ mandate to all Christians to proclaim the Gospel in word
At the end of mass we are told to “Go and announce the gospel of the Lord”
or “Go in peace, glorifying the Lord by your life”. We aren’t told
“thanks for coming, see you next week; don’t tell anyone about this place
or what we do whilst we are here, or what we have said we believe.
We are so lucky to have a large and active parish; it is indeed a blessing.
So much goes on within parish life and yet so much more could be going on.
W L Bateman is quoted as saying "If you keep on doing what you've always
done, you'll keep on getting what you've always got."
Our parish assembly takes place on June 14th to help determine the needs
of the parish; it is a time for listening. A time for your voices to be
heard. I’m sure that although much is done within the parish,
through the priority groups and other organisations, there are things that
you’d either like done differently, or maybe not at all. There may be things
that you see done in other parishes that you’d like to see happen here also.
Over the last couple of weeks you have been encouraged to share your wishes
for our parish; your dream list. You’ve been asked to be radicle in your
thinking; not simply to accept what you already have; what already happens.
Pope Francis in his recent writing says that through baptism we are already
missionary disciples; he is encouraging a renewal of evangelisation in our
lives and in our parishes.
We are given the gift of the Holy Spirit to enable us to take on such tasks;
and through Holy Communion we are strengthened, so we can fulfil the plans
God has for us; we can’t do this on our own, and all we do we do for his
glorification. Two weekends ago I was with family at a Holy Communion service
in Surrey, and in the priest’s homily on the subject of the feeding of the
5 thousand, he focused not on Jesus or the huge crowd, but on the young boy
who shared his food. On that morning when he set out to
listen to Jesus preach, he had no idea as to the importance of his attendance;
the young boy shared what little he had, and great things happened. That
assembly of people on that day witnessed a great event; come to our assembly
and be part of another great event. The least of us has something to offer
and, until it is shared, we have no idea just how important it might be.
If you really can’t make the assembly due to other long standing commitments,
please pray for the day to be a success; please pray for all those who will
attend and those helping with the organisation.
about our current "priority groups" (as identified at the 2011 Assembly)
Justice and Peace Group The group was set
up at the Parish Assembly in July 2011 to reflect the fact that J&P
lies at the heart of the message of Christ and the Doctrines of the Church.
The centrality of J&P to the work and mission of the church has been
reinforced in recent years by our Pope’s annual Message of Peace to
the world. The aim of the Group was to raise awareness of issues of
Justice and Peace working in line with the agreed objectives of the Parish
The Group is a network of individuals who organise events specific to
and aimed at raising money for their own special charity. Through
the Group they are able to draw support and help in publicising and organising
The Group meets monthly, mostly in prayer, exchanging information about
their activities and in organising and publicising events. The
Group has also established links with other J&P Groups in the UK.
The issue of homelessness has been a constant to which the group has responded
in different ways. Individuals have taken part in sleep-outs to raise
money for charities supporting the homeless, in particular Centre 33, and
jumble sales have been organised to raise money for the homeless.
Additionally, the group provides support for the setting up of food banks
in St Albans.
The Group has also provided support to two
other charities – The Living Room and The Catholic Workers Farm which provides
shelter for women and children who are homeless and destitute.
The Group also gave support to the ‘Hands Together, the Tiplyang Project’
and to the special ‘An Evening with Joanna Lumley’ at the Abbey theatre
as well as the recent Quiz Night.
After his visit to our parish, the group has maintained
contact with Fr Johnny Abu Khalil, from Palestine
where life has become increasingly difficult because of the restrictions
placed on his parishioners by the Israeli Government.
The Group has provided also Bidding Prayers for our Masses to raise awareness
of such things as Peace Sunday and Prisoners’ Sunday when there was a marvellous
response from parishioners in signing cards to be sent to those in jail in
Communications Group The current Communications Group has been
running for a year and has a number of different areas of focus:
The Parish website. This continues to be a source of information on events
and activities for parishioners and visitors, including Mass times and
details from the weekly bulletin. It also has a wealth of information about
the Parish, including contact details, links to the Youth website, information
on our priests and parish history, and reports on specific events and activities.
There is information in a number of languages, currently Italian and Polish.
We run a Facebook group, allowing parishioners and other friends of the
Parish to upload and share stories, articles and photos, and to debate and
discuss topics of interest. We also have a twitter account, SsAlbanStephen,
where parishioners can tweet their thoughts and ideas, and where we often
retweet other stories of local and/or Catholic interest.
The Parish Magazine has been reintroduced. Its objective is to provide
an ‘interesting read’ on a range of topics. For example, in the two editions
to date, over 30 contributors have written articles on pilgrimages, conference
reports, World Youth Day in Rio, Life, Aids Hospice in South Africa, ‘Finding
Silence’ weekends, Maryland, the Sacrament of Marriage, the Rite of Christian
Initiation of Adults, local charities supported by the Parish through ‘Growing
in Faith’. The magazine is professionally printed in full colour.
We also provide articles to the local press, through the Public Pulpit
in the St Albans Review.
We have started work on the creation of a central database with contact
information for all parishioners. This will pull all of the different parish
records into one place, making it easier to communicate with parishioners
and to meet their needs.
Youth Strategy Team
Report At the last Parish Assembly 3 years ago,
the Youth Strategy Team was identified as a priority group.
What is the mission of the group? Its mission is to provide the young people
with space to grow in the care, friendship and love of Jesus so that they
can be active in their community and confident in their faith.
How do we try to deliver this? The remit of the group could probably be
divided into 4 strands of activities:
~Sacramental~ Having input in the Baptism, First Reconciliation, Holy Communion
and Confirmation programmes. In the last 3 years there has been an increase
in the number of children coming forward to receive these sacraments. 406
babies and children have been baptised, 350 children have received their First
Reconciliation and First Holy Communion and 120 candidates have received the
Holy Spirit in Confirmation.
~Social~ The parish has a vibrant community offering support at all stages.
The Mothers and Toddlers group introduces new parents/guardians to the parish
community. The Youth Club for parish aged primary school children from all
schools boasting the cheapest tuck shop in St Albans! Older children completing
their Duke of Edinburgh Award come and help the children with arts and crafts,
board games and playing on the Wii. Those who have moved onto secondary school
are invited to join JIGSAW (Jesus Is Good and So Are We) where chatting about
their faith is encouraged combined with plenty of bowling and chippy hikes.
IGNITE provides opportunities for those young people facing challenges of
exams and possibly leaving home for the first time, to explore their faith.
~Liturgy~ Our children actively participate in the liturgy of the Church
especially at the 9.30am Mass, from toddlers from the Little Lights Liturgy
session to those in Years 2 and 3 attending Awesome Angels. A dedicated
team of Altar Servers of all ages support the priests and contribute much
to the smooth running at all masses. For those children who love to sing Kids’
Choir provides the perfect opportunity to express their faith. There are
so many gifted musicians there is a desire to launch a mini kids’ orchestra
in the near future. Within the Parish Schools of St John Fisher and SS Alban
& Stephen Junior School, the Year 6 children can apply and be interviewed
for the role of Chaplaincy Team members. The team work with school staff and
the Parish Youth Co-ordinator to present assemblies to the rest of the school.
Recently the Chaplaincy teams met to share their experiences. At all times
of the year children are encouraged to really participate but most notably
at Christmas and Easter. The Crib Service on Christmas Eve has become increasingly
popular as everyone is reminded of the real meaning of Christmas. At this
service the travelling crib completes its journey having been hosted by families
around the Parish. The Stations of the Cross service sees increasing numbers
of children keen to carry the cross and be part of Jesus’ journey to Calvary.
~Promotion~ The youth activities and sacraments have their own pages on
our recently redesigned website. A lot of time and energy have gone into
making this site accessible and informative both for the youth of our parish
and their parents. It is a great resource for information and diary events.
The Parish is truly blessed in having Frs. Charles, Tom, Jimmy and Deacon
Steve who are so welcoming, supportive and empowering. The increase in numbers
of children in the Parish is testament to them and to the parents who are
committed to bringing their children up within the Catholic faith. The Parish’s
commitment to the faith journey of our children was further confirmed with
the appointment of a Youth Co-ordinator. Joanna French took up this new post
in September 2010 and she worked successfully with the support of the YST
and Parish to initiate and/or develop many of the activities outlined above.
With her departure the people of the Parish continued her good work in the
intervening period before Sister Anita joined us in January 2014. Sister Anita
has settled into our Parish family and brings with her a wealth of experience
and ideas for the future.
The question as we approach the forthcoming Assembly is ...Are we delivering
for our children? What more can we do? The Parish Assembly is a time for these
questions to be considered.
We all have something to contribute so please don’t wait to be asked come
forward to offer support – attend the Assembly and have your voice heard.
As an adult involved in sharing your faith with the children, your own faith
is enriched. Child protection is obviously a very important requirement of
working with the children. The Child Protection Officer for the Parish is
a YST member and adults working with children have DBS (CRB) checks with regular
training updates offered.
Jesus said: “go into all the world and make them my disciples”. It's the
original mission statement, the reason for Pentecost, and it applies to
us! Vatican II reminded us that “the Church exists to evangelise” and more
recently Pope Francis reminded us that we are all "missionary disciples".
Mission comprises many things and the parish mission group has concentrated
on outreach, adult faith formation and prayer. It also includes working
with Churches Together so our witness can be united. The group aims
to facilitate and encourage anything that helps us to look outwards and be
the missionaries we are called to be.
So why not leave things as they are, with the same wonderful people doing
the same wonderful things? Mission always needs new blood, fresh ideas,
new talent. We are doing great things from courses that instruct,
to discussion on social teaching, to Finding Silence that help believers
and unbelievers to find room for God, to public acts of witness and
all the things in last week's insert in the bulletin . But we must always
move forward, renew our efforts and engage new people. So as someone once
said, “if not you, then who, and if not now, then when?”